The Key to Success: Making People Love What They Would Normally Hate


Aphro Dynamek. Putting the soul in Soul Fist.

I'm fairly sure I got your attention with that title. Before I get into that, allow me to introduce myself: I am Aphro Dynamek. Chances are you've seen me on commentary at some point or heard my voice coming out of a megaphone. In any case, I'm one of the more recent additions to the Kick-Punch-Block family. Now, about that title...

I got my first experience staffing an East Coast major at APEX 2014. I wasn't 100% aware of what game it focused on, but I was down to help my friends any way I could. Lo and behold, I learned that APEX focuses primarily on Super Smash Bros. I admittedly have no real experience with any of the SSB games. However, that didn't stop me from enjoying my time at APEX. I got to meet some of the mixers from OC Remix, sold some APEX & MegaBus shirts and was able to help 'retrieve' people for the Marvel brackets that KPB was running. On top of all that, I got a Qanba stick for helping out. Overall, a good day.

Now even though APEX had setups & streams going for other games (UMVC3, BB:CP, TTT2 & AE), the star of the show was Smash. As a longtime member of the FGC, I was never able to understand the appeal of SSB because it didn't fit the definition of what I considered a fighting game. It always seemed too... abstract for me. After seeing the kind of turnout & audience it draws, my opinion changed. The SSB series -IS- an unorthodox fighting game, but a fighting game nonetheless. How does it draw such numbers? Simple: It takes so many things we hate about fighting games & turns them into vital mechanics/features.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a motherf***in' Falcon!"

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a motherf***in' Falcon!"

Okay, follow me on this. I sat back & considered some of the things about fighting games that annoy me: ring outs, lame additions to the roster and the ever mysterious measurement of the life gauge/health meter. First things first, I'm sure anyone that has ever played Soul Calibur, Bloody Roar or any other game that allows proximity to be a deciding factor knows what I'm talking about. How many times have you've been just dominating someone only to have them juggle you out of the ring & snatch your hard-earned win... annoying as hell, ain't it? When it's something that can be so easily avoided, but ultimately devastating to your winstreak at the same time, that's just a pain in the ass. Smash, on the other hand, makes the ring out the only way you can win. They do it with style, too. Knocking your opponents right the hell off the screen is the only way to you can add a scratch to your W cloumn and I can't think of too many things more satisfying than turning my opponent into a (literal) game-winning homerun.

I want you to do me a quick favor: Think back a few months to when you found out that Scorpion was going to be a DLC character in Injustice. Do you remember how pissed off the community got? If I'm not mistaken, I do believe there was even talk of him being banned. (For the record, when the head of a studio wants his favorite character in a game, the character is going to end up in that game 11 times out of 10.) Think about all those times you DIDN'T see Phoenix Wright in any serious tourney videos for Marvel. You never see him in any Finals because he was a waste of a character slot. Not unlike the Juggernaut's appearence in "X-Men: the Last Stand", Wright's appearence in UMVC3 was more than likely motivated by someone trying to capitalize on meme fame. Of all the characters that Capcom -could- have added to their side of the roster (X, Sigma, VILE, Jin Saotome, Captain Commando, ANY male character from Darkstalkers... I could rattle this off all day, forgive me), they opted to add Phoenix Wright: Attorney at Law to a fighting game. Let that sink in for a minute. Now, consider the joy & surprise you feel just going through the Character Select in a Smash game. The reason why people love the selection is because Nintendo never really bothered to label any of them as "fighters". It's the ultimate dream match. Not to crunch numbers or determine match-ups, but simply fun for nothing more than fun's sake!

Finally, I'd like to talk about the health meter... or life gauge... or whatever you wanna call it. That's kind of the point here: It's pretty damn vague what that bar at the top of screen actually measures. Is it stamina, your level of consciousness or something altogether different? We often hear the phrase "life lead", but that feels like something of a misnomer to me. Every hit doesn't exactly take a year off of the recipient's life expectancy and in most games, the character just gets right back up after it drains. So, again I ask, what does that gauge measure? Well, if you've been paying attention so far, you should already know that SSB has addressed that question. At the bottom of the screen (a decidedly unconventional placement) during every match, you'll find a percentage ticker. The more damage you take, the higher the number goes and it does NOT cap at 100%. Even if you go over 100%, you're still in the game... so then what exactly does this ticker measure? Easy, it measures gravity. Or rather, the lack thereof. Whenever that ticker gets into triple digits, you'll notice it becomes harder & harder to control your character's descent. At the same time, even the most gentle of hits will send you flying off the screen (behold, we've come full circle) and cost you the match. It suddenly all makes sense, huh?

Mind you, this is all just my opinion. End of the day, you can just kick back & enjoy your game any which way you like because that's exactly what I'm gonna do. Until next time, my FGC brothers & sisters... be safe and stay awesome.

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